Manual Whistling Woman, Crowing Hen

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Animal Crackers (1883); Whistling Woman & Crowing Hen (1840)

Buenas noches Rosa. English language is not my Crazy Land in Moody II. There he is: Freddie. His head is up, scanning the dock for his boat. Goodbye, say my thoughts before my lips echo them. I feel a snake uncoil in my chest and then re-spool around my heart, squeezing tighter. He turns around, sees no-one, turns back. He boards the ship. The word leaves my throat raw. I am deafening myself.


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Freddie turns, despite tradition, and scans the dockside. I see his face change when he finally spots me. The colour leaves his face. I lift up my arm. I wave at him with difficulty. With one word I break tradition and something is unleashed. I woke up shivering; my whole body shuddering and shaking. I pulled the wool blanket that Freddie bought up to my nose.

Winter was riding in and sunlight receded more each day. I put the dream out of my mind. I kept myself awake at night cleaning and re-cleaning. Knitting baby things, pulling them apart and re-knitting them. In the dream Freddie is home. He is playing with a young girl. The girl has my hair, long and dark. I join them, putting my arms around Freddie, looking into his sea-blue eyes. I smile and reach out an arm to include the girl.

She comes into the circle of the hug. I look down and see that her eyes are green, same as mine.

Pat, the crowing hen!

I taste salt. I woke up lolled over the kitchen table. Someone was at the door. It was Mam, carrying a packet of biscuits.

She told me the news as I put the kettle on the stove. All hands lost.

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Freddie wasn't coming back. I suppose Mam was waiting to see how I'd react. She crackled the biscuits inside their plastic.

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The kettle began whistling. I felt something slide around inside my body, above my navel. She's superstitious and will always greet a magpie. She's studying creative writing at Royal Holloway University and wondering about writing a long story. Each month she puts a little piece of storyness on her blog 'arike writes'. You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post. Liars' League.

Comments You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post. Subscribe to this blog's feed. Check out the others here. We didn't win though congrats to Manchester's Bad Language, who did but we certainly enjoyed the awards party cocktails In celebration of our one hundredth event, the fine folks over at thestateofthearts.

What a load of cobblers A whistling woman and a crowing hen Are neither good for God nor men.

Whistling Woman, Crowing Hen

I suppose they make men feel inferior because women can do everything they can! Not sure why they bother God though - unless it is the same God who thinks that women should not wear trousers.

I can't say I feel inferior to whistling women or crowing hens. I can't speak for God but I don't think these would worry him too much. Still, he does move in mysterious ways. If he's reading this I would like to thank him for not giving us whistling hens, although I've known a few crowing women.

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I can whistle! DH doesn't care for it, though, so I hum and sing mostly - when I'm not talking to myself, that is I used to work for a fantastic whistler who seemed to be covering all parts of a symphony simultaneously. He was wonderful to listen to, and was sometimes joined by a mouth trumpet and pens-on-table drums played by workmates. They eventually formed a successful jazz band with real instruments. I can whistle rather tunelessly, but I regret that I can't manage the piercing fingers-in-mouth sound to go with applause.

That would be so useful when supporting grandchildren playing football. But I still maintain that a good whistler is balm to the soul. I remember what a lot of nostalgia travelling in a crowded rush hour tube in the '60s and a hippy took out a recorder and gently played. Suddenly I started smiling and I look around - so were others. Faces relaxed, people made eye contact. I can do a piercing whistle with two fingers, so useful for calling the dog, attracting attention but it does embarrass my DH! I wish I could do a really piercing whistle through my fingers - never mastered it, but at the moment it might be a really good way of bringing GS to a halt when he is haring off across the school playground at 3.

And all I get for my pains is "but nanny, I didn't hear you! He has never heard me raise the vocal decibels - I used to be a drill instructor! I've loved reading about other Whistlers. Whistling is a part of me.

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It was something I could do, but my brother never could. If I get into an echoey area I instantly know I have to whistle. I have made sure that my grandchildren are confident whistlers. They have also had compulsory instruction on the art of blowing bubbles in gum. I used to whistle through the gap in my front teeth but it seems to have closed up over the years, so now I whistle normally through pursed lips.